Just Another Demagogue?

by Norman Horowitz

I joined CBS in 1968. Shortly after I arrived, the corporation decided to reduce its headcount by 7.5%. Management assigned me to be the enterprise’s representative at the “division” to discuss how we would go about accomplishing the task.

There were about 20 people in the meeting. Because I was “new,” I was asked for my opinion. I said that, if it were up to me, I would first fire the managers who allowed the overhead to get to a point that we could cut 7.5% of the staff without hurting our operation.

(Actually, we could’ve reduced our head count by 50% without hurting our business, but that’s for another time.)

Of course, I was never invited back to another such meeting. CBS was making so much money that the reductions mattered very little.

Congressman Paul Ryan has been in Congress for more than a decade, yet he talks about cutting the budget as though it were the first time in his “historical context” that we’re spending more than we take in. Cuts must be made…what a discovery!  

Here are Congressman Ryan’s proposals, interspersed with some of my “smart ass” comments:

Congress is currently embroiled in a funding fight over how much to spend on less than one-fifth of the federal budget for the next six months. Whether we cut $33 billion or $61 billion—that is, whether we shave 2% or 4% off of this year’s deficit—is important. It’s a sign that the election did in fact change the debate in Washington from how much we should spend to how much spending we should cut.

How did Representative Ryan and others manage to transform the recent election results into a referendum on “spending”?

But this morning the new House Republican majority will introduce a budget that moves the debate from billions in spending cuts to trillions. America is facing a defining moment. The threat posed by our monumental debt will damage our country in profound ways, unless we act.

I wonder where Representative Ryan was hiding when President Bush took us into a couple of wars and doubled our national debt in just 8 years. Did he ever comment on the Bush-era deficits?

No one person or party is responsible for the looming crisis. Yet the facts are clear: Since President Obama took office, our problems have gotten worse. Major spending increases have failed to deliver promised jobs. The safety net for the poor is coming apart at the seams. Government health and retirement programs are growing at unsustainable rates. The new health-care law is a fiscal train wreck. And a complex, inefficient tax code is holding back American families and businesses.

Oh really? No one person or party is responsible for the looming crisis? Then why does he proceed to blame President Obama?

The president’s recent budget proposal would accelerate America’s descent into a debt crisis. It doubles debt held by the public by the end of his first term and triples it by 2021. It imposes $1.5 trillion in new taxes, with spending that never falls below 23% of the economy. His budget permanently enlarges the size of government. It offers no reforms to save government health and retirement programs, and no leadership.

I wonder if Representative Ryan considered President Bush’s policies to be acceptable and did he provide the leadership that Ryan apparently hungers for. President Obama of course provides leadership, but not what Representative Ryan approves of.

Our budget, which we call The Path to Prosperity, is very different. For starters, it cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president’s budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt. Our proposal brings federal spending to below 20% of gross domestic product (GDP), consistent with the postwar average, and reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion.

It would’ve been reasonable for Representative Ryan to explain what he means when he says that his budget is ““The Path To Prosperity.” Is he engaging in what the dictionary might call sophistry: “a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning”?

A study just released by the Heritage Center for Data Analysis projects that The Path to Prosperity will help create nearly one million new private-sector jobs next year, bring the unemployment rate down to 4% by 2015, and result in 2.5 million additional private-sector jobs in the last year of the decade. It spurs economic growth, with $1.5 trillion in additional real GDP over the decade. According to Heritage’s analysis, it would result in $1.1 trillion in higher wages and an average of $1,000 in additional family income each year.

I wonder if Representative Ryan considers a study just released by the very conservative Heritage Center for Data Analysis (CDA) to be bipartisan. It’s also interesting that he presents “his” (or the Heritage Foundation’s) numbers as “real” and the Obama numbers as “fantasy.” CNN at one time noted that the CDA is a branch of Heritage and, therefore, cannot be considered independent.

Here are its major components: Reducing spending: This budget proposes to bring spending on domestic government agencies to below 2008 levels, and it freezes this category of spending for five years. The savings proposals are numerous, and include reforming agricultural subsidies, shrinking the federal work force through a sensible attrition policy, and accepting Defense Secretary Robert Cates’s plan to target inefficiencies at the Pentagon.

With the stroke of a pen? Wow, how simple is that?

This is America’s moment to advance a plan for prosperity. Our budget offers the nation a model of government that is guided by the timeless principles of the American idea: free-market democracy, open competition, a robust private sector bound by rules of honesty and fairness, a secure safety net, and equal opportunity for all under a limited constitutional government of popular consent.

We can reform government so that people don’t have to reorient their lives for less. We can grow our economy, promote opportunity, and encourage upward mobility. This budget is the new House majority’s answer to history’s call. It is now up to all of us to keep America exceptional.

His modesty is very touching.

I might be happier had Congressman Ryan not been a supporter of President Bush’s economic policies including at least two wars and the death and injury to tens or hundreds of thousands of people at a cost to American taxpayers of well beyond a trillion dollars. I can only wonder if Congressman Ryan ever heard of Enron?

I’m reminded of an old story about a “really huge company” board meeting. There were two items on the agenda. The first was whether or not to approve a $25 billion purchase of an Internet giant. After 5 minutes of discussion, the purchase was approved. The second item was whether to continue to supply free coffee to all of their employees. There was a heated discussion for several hours before the “coffee” is approved.

The moral is that everyone knows about coffee and few know anything about Internet companies.

The dictionary defines a demagogue as “a person, especially an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people.” What is it that they say about shoes fitting?